“Mar-Ket-ting…?” The veteran therapist says to me, her eyes wide and blinking, brows furrowed. “Why, I’ve never had to do this “Mark Ket” that you speak of.”
One of the primary difficulties for this generation of therapists in private practice is that we are in an entirely new world when it comes to building sustainable and lucrative practices. When our clinical forebears started out, they had the unwitting fortune of stumbling into a wide open mental health market. That fantasy of simply “slapping up your shingle” and having the clients role on in actually used to work.
Who even says “shingles” any more?! I, for one, do not want shingles.
Which brings us to the larger point: Times have changed for therapists in the U.S. While it’s very difficult to to assess just how many mental health providers there are – and even more difficult to figure out how many of those are in private practice, rough estimates put us between 400,000 – 500,000 mental health practitioners as of 2013, depending on who’s counting.
And we’re on par to grow by 20% by 2024.
Which means that we must take intentional action in order to fill our practices with full-fee clients that we are inspired to work with.
And this is where – gasp – niching comes in.
The anxieties about niching are endless:
- I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself.
- I like working with a diverse range of clients.
- The majesty of my clinical expertise cannot be captured in simplistic niche-based exercises!
You’re not a special snowflake on this front. I’ve heard every argument.
But you certainly are uniquely suited to rock a client’s world in other ways and this is why niching is so important.
Niching, however, is not necessary for every clinician who wants to create a lucrative practice. As much as we hear that niching is an absolute essential from every business expert, I’ll concede that not every therapist needs to niche.
You don’t need to focus on a niche if:
- You’re the lone therapist in a completely unsaturated market, so the number of people desperately seeking a counselor mightily outweigh the availability of clinicians.
- You have the privilege of an external source of income (partner, family, the lottery), thus you have years, if not decades, to slowly build up a practice without the burden of monetary need.
- Similarly to the above, you have access to wealth, such that you can slide your fee to the point that anyone and everyone is happy to see you because you compete totally on price.
You do need a niche if:
- You’re in a saturated therapist market (like California, which contains half of the nation’s MFTs), so clients have their pick of every make, model and type of therapist.
- You need to earn a very solid income within 6-12 months of starting your practice.
- You want a great work/life balance, which includes seeing fewer clients, but charging premium prices for your services.
Look – 99% of therapists have the same wishes you do. Those of us who have used niching to expedite our private practice growth had all the same thoughts when starting out. We, too, want to work with a diverse clientele. We, too, want to give back to communities we are passionate about serving. We, too, were terrified that niching would limiting.
But, we also want to be able to financially support ourselves and our families. We want to give back without burning out. We want to be able to take vacations without becoming terrified about the hit to our monthly earnings. By god, man – We want to eat sushi-dinners!
In truth, therapists who niche are a lot like you.
This is why, over the next few weeks, I’m going to bring you stories of therapists who have utilized niching to excel their private practice growth. We’ll get all gritty into the anxieties they had before niching, the reasons they decided to take the plunge and get real about the impact that niching – and niching well – can have on your business.
While we’re waiting to hear from our first therapist, we’d love to hear your story! Have you niched down? What was the impact? Have you avoided niching? If so, how come? Start the discussion in the comment section below.